Regional Gardening Reports :: National Gardening Association

In the Garden:
Middle South
June, 2001
Regional Report

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Interrupted fern (Osmunda claytoniana) is a common native fern in our region, and definitely beautiful enough to be rescued from a new construction site.

Save the Ferns

If you have a shade garden, or a shady place on the north side of your house, you can always grow ferns. Of course, you can buy ferns through the mail or locally, but this time of year you can also rescue plants that are about to be bulldozed at new construction sites. In the process of clearing lots to build houses or building new roads through the forest, ferns are often sacrificed. You can avert this tragedy by digging up doomed plants and moving them to your yard.

Steps to Saving Ferns

First get permission to dig ferns from private property. To rescue ferns from construction sites, talk with the foreman during the week, and then go back on the weekend to gather your riches. Dig only those plants that you know will be lost if they're not rescued. You can identify species later, after the plants have become part of your garden family.

With a sharp spade, dig up clumps of ferns and place them in cardboard boxes. Ferns will transplant most successfully if they're lifted with a nice clump of soil attached to their roots. Moisten dug ferns with a sprinkle of water for their journey home.

Transplanting to their New Home

Prepare soil for transplanted ferns by digging in sand and organic matter such as compost or peat moss. Set ferns in the soil at the same depth you found them growing and water well. After transplanting, use sharp pruning shears to cut off about 1/3rd of the fronds from the outside edge of the clump. New frond will emerge from the center of the clump once the plants become established.

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